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Between Roland Emmerich's upcoming and unfortunate-looking Anonymous and the news yesterday that True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld is in talks to play Juliet in a new adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, I've come to the conclusion that it's time to — temporarily, mind you — ban Shakespeare from the silver screen. Ban quasi-historical dramatizations of his life, ban zany re-interpretations set in American high schools, ban special-effects-heavy snoozes like Julie Taymor's The Tempest. Give the dead man and his stories a break, for Christ's sake. Let's all just agree to back off a bit and return in, oh, five years.
Before we go any further I'd like to state for the record that I absolutely love Shakespeare's work.
Now, I'm sure there are filmmakers out there who could do some really amazing things with a Shakespeare play if they wanted to. But I can't help but feel our current movie-going culture is simply not Shakespeare-friendly. We're in the middle of a 3D resurgence, for some reason. We're still working through the torture-porn fad. Most of our animated films involve at least one parody of a Top 40 hit. Even our prestige films have drug-induced lesbian sex and people cutting off their own arms. And if you think this stuff doesn't come into conflict with the audacity and brilliance of Shakespeare's work, all I have to say to you is: Gnomeo and Juliet.
I can tell I'm coming off as snobbish here, and I want to ensure you that I'm not someone who thinks, "One can only TRULY experience Shakespeare at the the-A-ter." I have no problem bring classics into more commercial formats. I love 10 Things I Hate About You! But the question is, how many bold new visions can you have in a decade before "new" just means more special effects and lots more screwing? How many plots need to be re-worked for teenage drama before it just becomes a crutch? There are other plots out there, people! You can even make up your own.
His stories — which even he borrowed and adapted from other sources, it's true — are timeless and powerful, and that's why I know there will never not be film versions of these plays. But frankly, I feel like I have Shakespeare movie gout. If we could just give it all a rest, just for a while, maybe someone could have the space necessary to make a kick-ass, exhilarating film version of one of his many works without imploding under the pressure of the one that came out three months before. And maybe we could be in a clearer head space to enjoy it.
And if you still want to make your very own Bold New Vision? Go read some Goethe or something.